Plymouth Dirt Track Racing (PDTR) closed the season with a winged sprint car special honoring two of its own Saturday night. Frank Filskov departed the IRA Outlaw Sprint Car Series in 1996, and the series honors his car number with the annual memorial race at 27 laps. Brian Portschy’s death in 2013 shocked everyone at PDTR, and the 360 sprint car main was staged at 28 circuits to make the feature laps add up to his familiar number 55. A day of rain preceded Saturday’s event, and temperatures plummeted into the low 40’s by the time the night was done. Warm memories and good racing heated up the night, at least for most of us. Members of the Filskov and Portschy families were on hand for the night’s memorial races, and Samantha Portschy raced her weekly 360 sprint as well.
The IRA contingent qualifies their field, with former PDTR regular Ben Schmidt getting cheers when he broke the track record early in the field. Halfway through the entries Indiana’s Bill Rose rocked the place by lowering the mark into the eleven-second bracket. Later another former PDTR veteran Jeremy Schultz also dipped into eleven seconds, but Rose had a tenth of a second on him. The IRA heat races were won by Bill Wirth, Phillip Mock and Brandon Thone, placing the first fifteen entries into the feature field. Seven more came from the B main, topped by Ken Jay Fiedler. Fiedler, Jason Johnson and Kyle Marten also brought their 360 sprint cars to double their racing, but Johnson soon scratched his second entry.
The 22 entries in the Frank Filskov Memorial saluted the crowd four abreast before taking the green flag. The invert placed Scotty Neitzel and Wayne Modjeski in front of Mike Reinke, Schmidt, Rose, Schultz, Mock and Thone. Neitzel leaped ahead of the others at the start, but a spin by Schultz forced the yellow flag four laps later. Neitzel was ready again at the restart, with Reinke in hot pursuit when Scotty Thiel’s car came to a halt on unlucky lap thirteen. The next green flag stayed out until the end, with the duel between Neitzel and Reinke keeping the audience riveted as the laps wound down. With six laps remaining they faced heavy traffic at the back of the field, and then it happened.
Reinke found his chance and took it with two laps to spare, padding his lead with more lapped cars at the finish line. Neitzel hung on for second, with Modjeski closely followed by Schmidt and Steve Meyer from the sixth row. Wirth, Johnson, Scot Biertzer and Matt Vandervere were the only others still on the lead lap at the checkers. Reinke only won one other race this season, but this one was big for him. “Here’s a track we just don’t get around very good,” claimed Reinke. The winner talked about visiting with the Portschy family earlier, adding, “If anyone was going to pull a prank on me, it would have been him.” Reinke added, “We got it figured out on the high side. I could go through the bottom, and it worked there, too.” Neitzel claimed, “I know when Mike (Reinke) was coming when I heard the motor. Mike’s a good racer. He’s good on top. Mike did a heck of a job.” Modjeski told the crowd, “Thank all you fans for coming out in the cold. I hope it was good for you, it was good for me.”
The PDTR regulars ran their usual progressive racing in the 360 sprints, with the top 16 in passing points locked into the main and six more transferring from the B main. Heat winners were Jim Melis, Paul Pokorski, newly-crowned champion Donny Goeden and Rusty Egan. The B main began badly when Kevin Seidler’s car went over Scotty Conger’s mount and they both rolled. The cars were towed off, but the drivers were unhurt. Tony Wondra and Josh Teunissen were the next to turn over, but things calmed down after that. T. J. Luedtke was ahead of the final six to join the 28-lap feature. The 22-car field rolled wide to the waves of the audience before settling into position. The invert placed Fiedler and Egan in front of Jim Melis, Goeden, Kurt Davis, Pokorski, Danny Schlafer and Justin Miller.
Fiedler led the opening circuits until Goeden roared past on the ninth lap and quickly began lapping the back of the pack. Goeden was at record pace with four laps remaining when Egan’s car came to a halt to bring out the yellow banner. The restart was followed by another mishap and Goeden darted into the work area with a flat tire. The crew quickly changed rubber before the next green, followed by another caution when something broke on the Jim Melis car. Fiedler inherited the lead, but Schlafer got past on the next orbit, which was followed by one more yellow flag. The next restart was good and the final four laps saw a lot of action. Schlafer took the flag first, Davis got past Fiedler at the end, followed by Pokorski and Doug Wondra from the sixth row. As the others crossed the stripe, Goeden’s car jumped up after contact with another in the final corner and sat with others before the checkered flag.
Schlafer happily went to victory lane, telling the crowd, “It was kind of interesting to watch the stuff in front. I’ve been watching Kurt (Davis). We’re good under pressure.” When George Baumann told him this was a total of 160 wins at PDTR, Schlafer was surprised, and replied, “I’ve been pretty fortunate.” Schlafer does not keep track of his stats, and the win total includes heats and B mains, we were told.
The winged mini sprints also joined the season finale at PDTR. Nick Petska won his heat and doubled his fun by also competing in a 360 sprint car. The first heat was punctuated by Kevin Frederickson flipping, his car too damaged to join the feature. Mike Neau won the second heat, and 17 cars answered the call at feature time. The 20-lap feature started with Ron Brannam, Mark Heinert, Kyle Daywalt, Tim Brannam, Mike Neau and Petska ahead of the others. A spun car negated the first start, and the next green flag was followed by Heinert zooming ahead. Another spin brought out the caution on lap 13, followed by another with three laps remaining. Heinert stayed in front to the end, followed by Petska, Nick Daywalt, Kyle Daywalt and Adam Schroeder.
Heinert was asked about the restarts, replying, “I was looking up and saw the 18 (Petska) and thought, “Oh no, here we go again,” adding of his winning machine, “We’ve been throwing pretty much everything at it and tonight we got it figured out.”
Shortly after 10:30 the season was complete and we bid fond farewells to the place and its people until next year. In the pits the Goeden car was still being repaired before loading, while others had already left in the chill of the night air. Schlafer’s winning trophy was packed in bubble wrap and most of us were in winter wear. School and football season now fills calendars, but for us there are still a few more weeks of special events.
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.com)
Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks